THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of Science and Technology Policy
For Immediate Release
February 23, 1999
U.S.-SOUTH AFRICA BINATIONAL COMMISSION
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
5th Plenary Session
Cape Town, South Africa
February 18, 1999
The Science and Technology (S&T) Committee of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission is helping South Africa meet its development goals by applying science and technology to its development needs. To meet these goals, the Committee's work is focussed on five strategic areas: building capacity in science and technology; promoting science and engineering collaboration; applying science and technology to safeguarding our natural resources; improving health care; and promoting technology commercialization.
The S&T Committee co-chairs, Neal F. Lane, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Ben Ngubane, South African Minister for Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, have made science education and capacity building a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship. Specific projects aimed at math and science education for South Africa's black majority include:
SUNSAT student microsatellite program, in which NASA is planning to launch a South African student-built satellite in California. Younger kids interacted with the satellite through a radio communication system. In exchange for the launch, SUNSAT carried two NASA instruments that give the satellite important capabilities in monitoring the gravity field, which measures sea level rise, melting of polar ice caps, and other indicators.
U.S. partnered with South Africa to help create awareness of S&T and generate excitement about science among South African youths. During South Africa's Year of Science and Technology, the U.S. co-sponsored activities in the North West Province, including visits to high schools by U.S. astronaut Winston Scott, donations of educational materials and equipment by the Discovery Foundation, NASA, NSF, and the Smithsonian, and presentations by NOAA. More than 10,000 students participated in these activities.
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) is a hands-on environmental science and education program for K-12. There are currently in South Africa 39 GLOBE schools and 56 teachers trained in the GLOBE protocols.
The S&T Committee has worked to promote science and engineering research collaboration. Two major projects resulted from workshops co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the South African Foundation for Research Development (FRD): SAFARI 2000 and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). SAFARI 2000 is a southern African regional science research initiative that will utilize ground and satellite based observations to determine the climate and ecosystem consequences of the production and emission of aerosol and trace gases. SALT will be modeled after the innovative Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas and will be a first-class instrument for viewing the Southern sky. It will also have a major public outreach program designed to raise awareness about science and to encourage school children to pursue scientific careers.
Under the auspices of the S&T Committee, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the South African Weather Bureau (SAWB) have worked together to create a better understand the oceanographic phenomena known as El Niño and its effects in southern Africa. The collaboration has produced valuable data that was used to predict drought, heavy rains, and warmer temperatures - information that proved critical to agricultural production. These new predictive capabilities also led to a better understanding of the climate conditions that are directly related to outbreaks of vector-borne diseases like malaria.
NASA and South Africa will soon cooperate to establish a Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) station in South Africa. The station will house an optical radar for studying the Earth, the atmosphere, the ocean, and their interaction with one another. This cooperative project will make a significant contribution to the global Earth science community by providing a critical link in the international SLR tracking network.
In addition, the U.S. Departure of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has developed a strong foundation of partnerships with the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC), historically black universities, and provincial departments in South Africa in applying science and technology to natural resource management. These collaborative projects support small-scale black farmer operations that deliver higher value and more profitable products from raw agricultural commodities.
The U.S. and South Africa have joined forces to improve he health of both nations. The two nations continue to strengthen collaborations in biomedical research including HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and fetal alcohol syndrome, drug-resistant tuberculosis, hypertension, mental health, occupational health, violence, and telemedicine.
Finally, the U.S. and South Africa will work together to commercialize technologies that will help expand South Africa's industries.